F1: Mercedes chief still cautious despite team’s solid form

Though Mercedes have won the first four races in 2014, the way in which Rosberg had to work his way up to the front in China showed how the competition is catching up.

Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff insists that the team has to keep its feet on the ground despite its flying start to the season.

Wolff points to the fact that Nico Rosberg had to work hard to get up to second place after being as low as seventh on the first lap.

“It was not easy in the first stint, in terms of performance, the cars were different,” said Wolff. “Nico lost the telemetry before the formation lap, so you’re basically blind in the car. The way he handled the situation was really good. In the first stint it wasn’t easy for him to overtake cars, and he was following Ricciardo, and there was just no way even on the straight to get past him.

“It just shows you need to get things right, and you have to qualify well. Then at the end strategy-wise we took the right decisions. We were pushing the second stint quite long because we knew that at the end he had to manage the tires, and this is I guess why Alonso had to back off at a certain stage, because he knew he was not going to finish the race on that pace.”

Regarding the opposition, he said: “We have to be cautious. They’re coming, you saw Alonso… you saw Ricciardo, last stint again times to our cars. It is quite interesting because what you saw also in the last couple of races that you have situations in the race on worn tires where suddenly the times seem to be much more closed up.

“As I mentioned Ricciardo was matching Lewis’s times and Nico’s times. In the second stint it wasn’t the case, Lewis was holding but Nico was struggling behind Ricciardo. So we have to find out the way our competitors supply the energy and how the efficiency and fuel consumption works, because it looks like sometimes they go faster and then they don’t seem to manage it until the end of the race.”

Wolff admits the start to the season was better than expected, despite the clear hints from testing.

“Yes it is better. I think you cannot go into a season with these new regulations and think we’re going to make four wins in a row. And I guess that also in a couple of years we’ll look back at the statistics and say, wow, that was a run. You can’t take it for granted. You spot yourself looking… We have one car leading and the other car is fifth or sixth, and you say that’s not good. We have to stay with both feet on the ground and keep the development curve steep and keep pushing, because no doubt it’s going to close up.”